Well, my first ACC tournament is over.
And you know what? It went pretty well. I met some new players, saw some friends from the Twin City Peggers, and even left with more money (and experience) in my pocket than when I arrived. But I wasn’t alone.
I was joined by Big Tim, my father who taught our family the game. As cribbage tournaments go, it started early enough–8:15 AM sharp, according to the flyer. For me, 6 AM on a Saturday dictates only one cup; “I’m staying,” the other side of the Lebowski mug says, “I’m finishing my coffee.” And so I did. As you can see, Dad may have already finished his cup.
It was too early to get a practice round in, but we did have time the night before to lay some 15s and “talk smart,” as we like to say. I reviewed some of the tenets of protocol with Dad because he had never played ACC league cribbage before: offer a cut before dealing every hand; leave at least four cards on the top and bottom of the deck for every cut; don’t touch the cut card or bring it into your hand; watch your hands around your pegs; common sense rules the day. So we bundled up against the arctic windchill and hit the road to West Side Lanes.
We strolled in, registered, and took our seats among the 75+ players that day. I must have been the youngest by at least 15 – 20 years. It seemed I recognized almost half the players from my own Wednesday night league. The format was two games against seven opponents for 14 games total. The top 25% qualified for the playoff bracket round, best three out of five games. I played a southern gentleman named Keith who had flown in from South Carolina the night before. I met Marv and Pat and Darlene, other players from the metro area (I’ve always wanted to meet a Marv, and now I have!). I played Pete and Diane–two from my own club–who were generous enough to give me four straight wins. I wrapped round robin play up against Bob, an older gentleman keeping warm beneath a trench coat, wool fedora-like cap, and sporting thick black-rimmed glasses above a bushy mustache, quick to shuffle and quick to count, flitting his eyes from cards to board and back again. I remember thinking this guy could be a secret agent.
Things went well for me, but unfortunately not for Big Tim. Cribbage players are terribly superstitious folk based on how fickle the cards can be, and as happens with us all, Dad just wasn’t getting any hands. To clarify below, a loss is worth 0 points, a win is worth 2, and a skunk–an embarrassing loss for one’s opponent by more than 30 pips on the board–is worth 3. Things really came together for me in the later games, and I cruised to 19 game points overall with a spread of +54 points.
So things were good! Advancing to the 3-of-5 bracket round scored me some ACC points as well as mad stacks of cash money. One of the great benefits of cribbage tournaments is the return on the entry fee and possible side-pot if one does well. Had I advanced farther, I would have received more points and more mad stacks, but it was not to be–I lost by mere PIPS! You see that scorecard? You see the match against Darlene–number 8, win by 30? Had I won by 31, I would have scored a skunk for 20 game points total, making the Q-pool side-pot and netting much more money. Lost that by a PIP.
But that’s not all.
I played Laurie, a friend from the Twin City Peggers, in the first bracket round of playoffs. I won the first game, she the second and third, I the fourth, and her the fifth and final. But the THIRD GAME made all the difference. Laurie needed four points to win, I needed six, but I had first count, so if I could have avoided giving her four points, it would have all been over without the drama of the fifth game. But I cut her a JACK, which in this wonderful, frustrating game is called HIS NIBS and worth TWO POINTS, so she immediately cut her journey in half. She paired me up later and that was that. I was not a happy pegger. Out of the 44 cards remaining in the deck–and I even had a jack in my hand–I cut one of the three remaining. So once again I lost by PIPS. PIPS!
Hopefully this weekend will go better. We’re off to Turtle Lake, about 75 miles northeast of the Twin Cities. And from there?
Reno, baby. World’s largest cribbage tournament. Stay tuned.